It’s a very intense time for the music industry or being an artist within an industry. In today’s climate, Album sales are becoming lower, record stores are being closed down, A&Rs are being thrown to the curb, Labels are downsizing and cutting costs by any means. It gets much worse for the Artists because in todays rushing market, The labels don’t have the patience to really build careers and are pressuring artists to start strong. Artists whom aren’t pushing a strong first week are getting shelved because their first week soundscan isn’t strong enough. Mix that along with the fact that downloading took a chunk in sales along with the advancement with technology, It’s clear that things aren’t gonna get better anytime soon unless some serious changes are being made.
Going back to the 80s, Record sales have always played a key role in hip hop. It goes in hand with the machismo/braggadocio that exists within the hip hop world . For better or worse, It has created excitement and also a strong sense of competition within artists in verbal combat so they would bring their A game to the table. The negative aspect being the fact that many labels today have been mesmerized by the first week strong numbers that were brought in by artists such as Eminem, Nelly, 50 Cent, Tupac, NWA, and many others in the past that they want to pressure every artist to sell that much so they won’t have much to capitalize. Even if it means risking sabotaging an artist themselves to sound like the next person.
Gone were the days where labels were patient with artists, making sure they work on their craft and build a decent career. The economic times have taken its toll on the fickle music market and is forcing the hand of the labels executives today. The Majors demand huge numbers meaning if you’re not at least pushing 200-300 thousand your first week as a new artist, Theres a high chance that you’re gonna be on the shelf or wont even get a chance to record a new album. Artists such as Eminem, Lil Wayne and Kanye West may face more pressure from the labels because they have to at least push gold their first week or at least platinum because there’s a possible chance that the label gonna start plugging the marketing behind the album.
The main problem with Major labels today is as a mentioned above is that they don’t have patience. They want fast money and don’t want to really work on continuing to push an album despite it having potential hits to eventually reach platinum. There have been artists such as Kendrick Lamar who continued the strong momentum from his first week by releasing single after single until reaching Plat. But and that mentality is destroying the possible investments of new and developing potential artists.
I remember back in the earlier days where albums had to be worked on to go platinum. A perfect example of this is when Nelly came out with his first album titled Country Grammar. Despite having a catchy single, It still did average numbers at 235,000 the first week. But that didn’t stop Nelly from pressing, He would release E.I. which pushed the album further into Gold status
Nelly saw potential in his album and felt that the album still had TONS of potential. He knew he had a crossover album but the label were kinda of dragging their feet in promoting it so he went ahead and did it for himself. He released Ride With me which was another smash hit and crossed Nelly’s name into the mainstream. Country Grammar reached triple platinum by October but what made Nelly’s story even more incredible is that the album sold MORE throughout the weeks. Nelly kept touring, doing appearances, and playing his part along with releasing singles while the momentum kept on building.
Incredibly enough, Country Grammar sold approximately 9 MILLION records in the United States alone. Nelly officially became a household name and he opened the doors for St Louis rappers to get in. Nelly turned what was average first week sales into a close to diamond selling album through hard work and grind along with the backing of a label believing in him. Thats what needs to happen today.
While Nelly’s story is one of the rare miracles in hip hop. An artist signed to a major shouldn’t have to go all out and promote his music when its the label’s job to make sure it’s marketed and pushed properly. The key is major distribution and alot of these labels drop the ball on artists before they even start investing and taking risks.
The labels today have the play it safe method and in the process the music and business side is suffering heavily. The first week success only really worked out for artists that are already established(Jay, Kanye, Wayne, Em,) but what about the other acts? I mean it would be impossible for a guy like Pusha T to go gold his first week in today’s market but shouldn’t mean his album is total failure and should be thrown in the back burner.
Ice T breaking it down about labels
The Major labels should test the waters by throwing two or three songs out in the radar to test the public’s reception. If one of these records connect to the masses then go from there and continue to promote it.It’s not gonna go back to the old days so they have to find new creative ways of marketing their product.
The majority of the best music and money have been made off “risks” Death Row Records was a risk, Ice Cube was a risk, 2Pac was a risk, Public Enemy was a risk, Notorious BIG was a risk(because of his weight and looks) DMX was a risk(his personality), Kanye was a risk(his rapping), 50 was a risk(his violent history), Eminem(his skin color) and the list goes on. Theres alot of hungry artists that are out there and have potential to be stars.
The only way the Industry and mainly hip hop artists is gonna survive the crisis is that they gonna have to find ways to do for self and not rely on these labels no longer because they’re gonna do whatever it takes to make sure they get their back-end money back even if it means sabotaging their own investment, Just ask Lupe Fiasco.
Vic Da Ruler